The restaurant building at 21st and Webb that’s been empty since John Arnold’s Jax Restaurant and Bar closed in January is about to get a new tenant — one that’s already made a mark in the Kansas City area. Husband and wife Bogart Sauza and Diana Perez say that they’ll likely need about three months to convert the upscale building at 9719 E. 21st St. into Wichita’s first location of Viva Tacos & Tequila.
The couple, who says they own restaurants in a few states, have been operating a Viva at 5031 W. 135th St. in Leawood since June 2022. The restaurant, they say, is known for its high-end margaritas and tequila selection and serves a large variety of margaritas hand-made with fresh juices and blue agave tequila. The bar stocks more than 100 tequilas, mezcals, and sotol.
The food is also not just the typical Tex-Mex, Perez said, and is inspired by flavors from Jalisco, Mexico. For example, she said, the menu includes plantains served different ways and unique seafood dishes. The most popular items on the Leawood menu are the quesabirrias — quesadillas made with birria meat — and its various steak entrees. “It is Mexican food, but it’s very much toward the authentic with a good presentation and items you won’t see in other Mexican restaurants,” Perez said.
The couple just got the keys to the 6,000 square-foot Jax building on Thursday and soon will start renovations that will brighten the space and add color. When finished, the interior will look similar to the Leawood location, which is filled with art and colorful murals.
The couple says they’re planning two more Viva restaurants in the Kansas City area and would like to add at least one, maybe two more in Wichita. They started eyeing Wichita, Perez said, in part because of enthusiastic family members she has here. “Since they went to Kansas City and saw our place, they’ve been bugging us, saying ‘Wichita needs a place like this,’” she said with a laugh.
The restaurant will serve both lunch and dinner, and the owners plan to utilize the existing patio in the Jax building. Their Kansas City restaurant offers weekend brunch, and they’ll consider adding it in Wichita, too, they said.
Arnold decided to close Jax when his lease expired after the first of the year. He first took over the building in 2015, opening Greystone Steak & Seafood there. The pandemic hurt that business, he said in January, and he changed the concept to Jax in 2020. Arnold, who also owns Deano’s Grill & Tapworks, Oak & Pie and Stearman Airfield Bar & Grill in Benton, is now focusing his attention on opening a second Deano’s at 37th and Ridge in northwest Wichita.
Andrea Ray and Brad Saville of Landmark Commercial Real Estate and Troy Farha of NAI Martens represented the landlord in the deal.